Souvenir hunting in combat zones continues to be a matter requiring caution. It is
perhaps hard for some men to realize that a scrap of paper or a small metal plate
with a few words in a foreign language on it can be of great ultimate significance
in analyzing the military and economic resources of the
Because of the activities of souvenir hunters during operations on more than one
Pacific island, much material of known and probable value was carried away, and
almost all enemy documents, personal papers, weapons, and equipment were so rummaged
through and scattered about that their eventual salvage was either unnecessarily
delayed or rendered impossible. Souvenir hunting was not confined to any one unit
or group, but was undertaken by construction battalions, defense forces, and ship's
crews—personnel who came ashore after the assault phase had been completed. Not
that there had been any lag between the assault and the beginning of the souvenir
hunting. Even by mid-afternoon of the first day, considerable damage had been done,
for houses, stores, and barracks had been stripped almost as fast as they had been taken.
As experienced observers have pointed out, every effort must be made, through
training, indoctrination, and briefing immediately before an operation, to minimize
indiscriminate souvenir hunting and to insure the utmost cooperation between troops
and construction units on one hand and intelligence personnel on the other.
At present there is a vital need for every available name plate from enemy
materiel of every description. It is essential that, whenever possible, the
name plate be left on the captured equipment to which it pertains. In recent
weeks an increasing number of loose name plates have been confiscated from the
mails by censors. Although it is a War Department policy that military personnel
be treated as generously as possible when they request permission to retain
souvenirs, it is obvious that items of intelligence value must be held for
examination by the proper authorities. Experience has shown again and again
that the most trivial-looking items can reveal desperately needed information
concerning the enemy.
Sometimes it has proved advisable to post guards over captured command
posts, radio stations, supply dumps, and so on, so that documents and
materiel can be examined thoroughly without having been subjected to
previous handling and the resulting damage and loss.
The responsibility for turning in for examination any random documents or
pieces of equipment found by military personnel of course rests directly
with the officers in charge of the various units involved in an operation.
The brighter side of the picture—and there very definitely is
a brighter side—is illustrated by the following statement by a
high-ranking U.S. officer who fought the Japanese on Rendova:
"If handled properly, souvenir collecting pays dividends; if not, it
hurts morale and ruins an excellent source of information. Our rule
was that a soldier could keep a souvenir if he were given clearance
by his company commander, the Intelligence officer, and the Ordnance
officer. The men cooperated wonderfully, and it was through 'souvenirs' brought
in by collectors that we knew, two hours after we reached Rendova, the enemy's
strength and disposition of troops over the previous two months' period."
1. In connection with this section, reference should be made to two articles
which have previously appeared in the Intelligence Bulletin: "Souvenir
Hunters Cause Needless Loss of Lives" (Vol. II, No. 2, pp. 72-74) and "Three
Jeers for the Souvenir Sap" (Vol. II, No. 5, pp. 80-82).
2. A letter dealing with "Destruction by Souvenir Hunters of Valuable Intelligence
Data" was recently sent by the Adjutant General to the major commands, overseas
theaters, and base commands. (AG 386.3, 2 March 1944, OB-S-B-M, 10 March 1944).